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Things I Cannot Eat, Otherwise... I Die

There was a show in school this afternoon, and one of my former players text-ed me to ask if he could watch. “Of course,” I replied. But first, he text-ed again, he had to buy isaw

My reply was monosyllabic and direct to the point: “Yuk!”

No disrespect to the isaw-lovers from among the readers; but make me eat this, I die! It’s completely psychological. We used to have a poultry farm, and I used to help out. I say, that is putting things lightly. When I was an adolescent kid, I used to refer to myself as my Mom’s poultry boy – naturally with more than just a pinch of sarcasm.

What I am trying to say here is that, in the individual cages that housed the chickens, I saw what went in; and naturally saw what went out. Make me, and I will go into the graphic details! The isaw, that was the “halfway-through.”

I am squeamish about certain foods, but I do eat innards. That is, if I can be convinced that they are the sort that can be cleaned before they are cooked. Take, for example, dinuguan… I know the “halfway-through” is flushed out first from intestines, which are then even soaped and rinsed over again before these are sliced.

How, pray tell, do you do this with chicken intestines? If you tried to run water through these, they are so thin and fragile that they would break. Hence, you will not have isaw. Or, maybe this is just me… The truth is that I am no authority on this matter for the simple reason that I have never been brazen enough to try it.

It is this same psychologically-rooted squeamishness that prevents me from eating adidas. My Mom used to cook these when they were just called chicken feet and long before they became popular street fare. “What was there to eat?” I used to complain to my Mom. As far as I could tell, there were just scales over foot bones; whatever it was in between had to be in the form of cartilage. And what could one get from that…???

The truth of the matter was, in my head, I was seeing the chicken feet stepping on the meshed-wire flooring of the chicken cages in the poultry farm. Often enough, the feet stepped not just on the “halfway-through” but – rather – even on the “all-the-way-through,” which sometimes stuck to the wires on the way down.

There are some foods that I will not eat for the simple reason that when I look at them, I see something totally different in my head. Take, for example, frogs legs. They are a culinary delicacy in certain countries – notably France – but try as my Mom would to convince me that they tasted better than chicken, I would always ask for scrambled eggs, instead. And eat away from the dinner table so I did not have to look at the frog legs…

They’re palakang palayan, my Mom used to coax me. Like I cared… In my head, I was seeing the large ugly garden bull-frog, the sort that held loud concerts on rainy nights and looked slimy from head to toe. As far as I was concerned, a frog was a frog was a frog. End of story!

I also do not eat octopus. Now, laugh if you must; but I see in my head those monster octopi that used to hold ships clasped within the grasp of their tentacles in black-and-white movies I used to watch as a little boy. Ironically, I eat squid. Ask my friends, though! I give away the tentacles.

There are foods I would like to eat but cannot. This time, the reason is physiological rather than psychological. Feed me raw fish, I die! I am irreversibly allergic!

In the old days, Dad – an Ilonggo – would prepare the most fabulous kilaw. At least, that was how everyone described it. Mom would go to market in Batangas City for freshly-caught fish, and Dad would take care of the rest. He would lovingly slice the fish meat into thin strips and mix these with green mango he himself scraped from off its skin. I think chopped onions and chili were also added. I really wouldn’t know…

Just this one time I tried kilaw, I ended up in the hospital and was confined for three days!

Just a few years back, another former player treated me to snacks at Tokyo-Tokyo. He asked for the California Maki. I took a quick look at the pink meat inside the rice outer wrapping and instantly gave him a suspicious look. “Is that cooked?” I asked. Yes, he reassured me.

After I took a quick bite at the pink thingy, if I’m being honest, I thought it did not taste bad at all. Neither did it taste cooked. I ate no more. That was all it took – one tiny bite. By night-time, my stomach did not quite feel right. Before long, I was passing fluids. And it went on all night long…

I didn’t, of course, die! But if you ever spent one bloody night trying to expunge from your body what does not even seem to be there anymore, well, that’s just about the closest thing I can think of to actually dying…

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